Toronto FC hopes the time is right to return Michael Bradley to midfield role

Michael Bradley’s adventure in defending started in Mexico, in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final after Toronto FC Drew Moor went down in training.

“I looked at (Bradley) and we looked around. There was nobody else … It was really a play out of necessity,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney recalled.

At the time, the move to move Bradley to centre back from his role as holding midfielder made strategic sense as well as filling a void. Trailing Chivas Guadalajara 2-1 after the first leg at BMO Field, Toronto needed goals. Bradley’s distribution from the back was seen as a way to trigger attacks.

Seven games and 40-plus days have passed since then. Bradley, the 14th TFC player to feature on defence this season, has been forced to start in the backline for six of those contests.

It’s never a good sign when your holding midfielder is tied for the fourth most starts on defence. Toronto, which conceded just 37 goals in 34 games last season, has leaked 23 goals in 11 contests this year.

The TFC skipper has done yeoman work as an emergency defender. But he was front and centre last week as Columbus rallied for three late goals to tie Toronto 3-3.

There was, however, plenty of blame to go all around on the goals.

Gyasi Zardes was left unmarked on a corner on the first goal, ultimately rising above Bradley to head the ball home. Bradley was the victim of a bad bounce on the second, unable to clear the ball before Alex Crognale tucked it in. On the third, a misdirected backpass by Marky Delgado and botched clearing attempt by Jason Hernandez preceded the Bradley tackle that led to a penalty kick and Federico Higuain’s trying goal.

Vanney has valued Bradley’s work in the back. But he wants him back in the midfield, hopefully Friday night in Philadelphia for the game against the Union.

Seventh-place Philadelphia (5-6-3) is seven points ahead of ninth-place Toronto (3-7-2) in the Eastern Conference but has played two more games.

“We’d like to (move Bradley back) as soon as possible,” said Vanney. “That’s the position he’s best at and he makes a lot of things tick for us when he goes into that position.

“At the point where we get our centre backs into games to start with the idea that they can play 90 minutes then we’ll get them on the field. I don’t like to go into games with centre backs that I know I have to sub.”

Defender Nick Hagglund would be next up, having come on in the 67th minute against Columbus and the 45th minute against Dallas. Eriq Zavaleta pronounced himself fit this week although Vanney was awaiting word from the medical staff on what kind of minutes he might be able to play.

Getting central defenders back has taken time.

Moor remains a long-term casualty. Hagglund needed close to eight weeks to return from what was termed a “reasonably significant hamstring strain.”

Zavaleta, Justin Morrow and Chris Mavinga have had injury setbacks. Hernandez needed time to get into game shape after returning to the team without the benefit of a training camp.

There are no complains about Bradley’s defensive work in the TFC camp.

“It’s a different role, it’s a different responsibility,” said Vanney.

“For sure he’s had to make a mindset shift. He’s done a great job of that over the course of the games. He’s done everything that we’ve asked,” he added.

“He’s shown most of the time that he’s more than capable of doing it. He’s filled in and done a great job back there,” said goalkeeper Alex Bono.

“Kudos to him for stepping in and never complaining and being the captain he is and leading our group from the back,” said Zavaleta. “But it’s time, I think, to start getting him into midfield again.

“At the end of the day I think what we miss the most from putting Michael in the back is that he’s not in the midfield, more so than what we lose from him in the back.”

Philadelphia will be without midfielder Haris Medunjanin and captain Alejandro Bedoya, both red-carded in last week’s 3-1 loss to Atlanta.

—-

Toronto FC (3-7-2) at Philadelphia Union (5-6-3)

Still Out: Toronto remains without forward Jozy Altidore (foot), midfielder Ager Aketxe (hip flexor) and defenders Drew Moor (quadricep strain) and Chris Mavinga (hamstring strain). Defenders Ashtone Morgan (hamstring strain) and Justin Morrow (calf strain) are working their way back.

Form Chart: Toronto blanked Philadelphia 3-0 when the two team met May 4 at BMO Field. Since then the Union have gone 3-2-1 in league play compared to 1-3-1 for Toronto.

Whose Turn?: Victor Vazquez took over TFC’s penalty duties in Columbus, replacing Sebastian Giovinco who had missed from the spot the week before against Dallas. Coach Greg Vanney says he will leave it to his players to decide who’s feeling confident when it comes to penalty kicks.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Number of seniors who play bridge in Red Deer growing

Red Deer Bridge Club has been around for close to 60 years

PHOTOS: Buccaneers battle Wolfpack in AFL semifinal

The Central Alberta Buccaneers battled the Calgary Wolfpack in the Alberta Football… Continue reading

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

City Hall Park construction begins next week

Construction to update Red Deer’s City Hall Park is set to begin… Continue reading

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

In the wake of deadly flooding in the Indian state of Kerala,… Continue reading

Indonesia’s Lombok island jolted by multiple quakes

SEMBALUN, Indonesia — Strong earthquakes jolted the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok… Continue reading

Afghan president calls for Eid cease-fire, Taliban to reply

KABUL — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has called for a conditional cease-fire… Continue reading

Montreal may have less influence after October provincial election

MONTREAL — When Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault recently dismissed the… Continue reading

Privacy issue with online pot sales after legalization needs watching: experts

TORONTO — Buyers who have to provide personal information to purchase recreational… Continue reading

Range of reactions to possible holiday to mark legacy of residential schools

The federal government’s intention to enact a statutory holiday aimed at remembering… Continue reading

Wildfire smoke from B.C. gets in the way of mountain scenery for tourists

JASPER, Alta. — Smoke from wildfires that’s blanketing parts of Alberta does… Continue reading

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

The once meat-dominated world of fast-food and casual restaurants is starting to… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month